On May 23, the U.S. State Department established the Health Incidents Response Task Force to coordinate a response to unexplained health problems affecting some diplomats stationed in Havana, Cuba and in China.
As the Department’s press release stated, this group will “direct a multi-agency response to the unexplained health incidents that have affected a number of U.S. government personnel and family members stationed overseas” and coordinate “Department and interagency activities, including identification and treatment of affected personnel and family members, investigation and risk mitigation, messaging, and diplomatic outreach.” This Task Force “includes interagency partners, such as the Departments of Health and Human Services, Commerce, Justice, Defense and Energy, as well as other members of the foreign affairs community.”
As has been noted in previous posts, 24 U.S. personnel and family members who had served in Cuba have been “medically-confirmed as having symptoms and clinical findings similar to those noted following concussion or minor traumatic brain injury. In addition, on May 16, 2018, “a U.S. government employee serving in China was medically-confirmed with similar findings.”
This Task Force, at least initially, ignores the recent request by an eminent Cuban scientist for the creation of a joint task force of Canadian, Cuban and U.S. scientists and medical personnel to conduct an investigation of these medical issues.
 U.S. State Dep’t, Establishment of the Health Incidents Response Task Force (June 5, 2018); Reuters, U.S. Sets Up Task force Over Unexplained Diplomatic Heath Incidents, N.Y. Times (June 5, 2018).
 Previous posts about the medical incidents of U.S. diplomats in Cuba may be found in the “U.S. Diplomats Medical Problems in Cuba, 2017-18” section of List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: CUBA.
 Cuban Scientist Calls for U.S., Canada and Cuba Joint Investigation of Medical Problems of U.S. and Canadian Diplomats in Cuba, dwkcommentaries.com (May 30, 2018).
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More U.S. Diplomats in China Report Medical Problems
Last month, the U.S. reported that an employee at the U.S. consulate in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou got sick after reporting disturbing noises. Now in early June another consulate employee in the same city, his wife and their two children were evacuated after the parents exhibited neurological symptoms.
The latest evacuee is Mark A. Lenzi, a security engineering officer at the consulate. He said in recent months he had suffered neurological symptoms after hearing unusual sounds in their apartment that sounded like marbles rolling around a metal funnel. Mr. Lenzi worked for the diplomatic security department, and he believes that his work could have made him a target. In addition, before joining the Foreign Service in 2011, Mr. Lenzi worked with the International Republican Institute, funded by Congress, promoting democratic reforms in Ukraine and Georgia — two countries where Russia has denounced American involvement.
There are roughly 170 American diplomats or employees in Guangzhou, as well as their family members, and a senior American official said a sizable number had undergone or would soon undergo testing by the State Department doctors who arrived on May 31. Officials said they expected that at least some others would be flown out of the country as well.
The sounds and sensations did not occur at the consulate itself, which opened in 2013 and is a state-of-the-art building designed to withstand electronic eavesdropping and other security and intelligence threats. Instead, the ailing employees said they experienced the strange sounds and sensations in at least two apartment complexes where American government workers live, along with other foreigners and wealthy Chinese.
Myers & Perlez, A Medical Mystery Grows as U.S. Consulate Workers in China Fall Ill, N.Y. Times (June 6, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/06/world/asia/china-guangzhou-consulate-sonic-attack.html
China Pledges to Investigate Sonic Attacks on U.S. Diplomats
On June 7, China’s foreign Ministry stated that it would assist the U.S. in investigating the mysterious illness affecting some U.S. diplomats and family members at the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou, China and that it already had investigated the first such case in May.
Those already evacuated and any future evacuees have been and will be taken for testing to the University of Pennsylvania Center for Brain Injury and Repair, where a team of researchers had examined the cases from Cuba.
Perlez & Myers, China Pledges to Investigate Fears of Sonic Attacks on U.S. Diplomats, N.Y. Times (June 7, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/07/world/asia/sonic-attack-china-guangzhou-consulate-.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fworld&action=click&contentCollection=world®ion=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront.
U.S. Broadens Health Alert to All Americans in China
On June 8, the U.S. State Department on its websie issued athe following “Health Alert” for all Americans in China:
• “Event: The State Department received medical confirmation that a U.S. government employee in China suffered a medical incident consistent with what other U.S. government personnel experienced in Havana, Cuba. As a result of additional voluntary medical screenings, the Department has sent other individuals to the United States for further evaluation.”
• “If you or members of your family experience any unusual, unexplained physical symptoms or events, auditory or sensory phenomena, or other health concerns, please contact your health care provider to determine whether a medical evaluation and/or treatment is advisable. Symptoms to be attentive for include dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, ear complaints and hearing loss, and difficulty sleeping.”
• “Action to Take: Do not attempt to locate the source of any unidentified auditory sensation. Instead, move to a different location.If you have concerns about any symptoms or medical problems, consult a medical professional as soon as possible.”
Earlier the same day the State Department had issued the same “Health Alert” for all Americans in its Embassy and all its Consulates in China.
According to the New York Times, “American officials have suggested that Russia was involved in the targeting of the diplomats in Cuba, and possibly also in Guangzhou, perhaps with the tacit knowledge of the Chinese.” A state-run Chinese newspaper, Global Times, however, rejected any such notion: ““We recommend that the U.S. should not come to a conclusion too quickly that their consulate employees are attacked by external actors, but should conduct an investigation to look for an internal cause. The United States should drop its ‘enemy mentality.’”
U.S. State Dep’t, Message for U.S. Citizens [in China]: Improvements to Safety and Security Information (June 8, 2018) , https://china.usembassy-china.org.cn/sm-01182018/
U.S. State Dep’t, U.S. Embassy & Consulates in China: Health Alert (June 8, 2018,) https://china.usembassy-china.org.cn/ha-05232018/
Perlez & Myers, U.S. Issues Alert to Americnas in China in Wake of Sonic Attack Fears, N.Y. Times (June 8, 2018) https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/08/world/asia/sonic-attack-china-guangzhou-consulate.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fworld&action=click&contentCollection=world®ion=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=5&pgtype=sectionfront